Greece. The name alone conjures images of ancient civilizations and the wonderful structures they left behind (the Parthenon/Acropolis), as well as the influential philosophers (Plato, Aristotle, Socrates) who helped lay the foundations for Western philosophy as we now know it.
But if a journey back in time to witness the history of this great land seems inconvenient, you couldn't be more mistaken. From the country's modern airport to the souped up ferries that shuttle visitors between its captivating Mediterranean islands, getting around during your Greece vacation will be easier than ever.
And whether you're a history buff, or just a traveler in search of a good time, there's a lot more to see and do than marvel at the architecture. Quality beach time, for example, can be had in Marathon, site of the battle of Marathon in 490 BC which gave rise to the modern-day distance race by the same name. The same can be said for Rhodes, the largest of the Dodecanese islands. Named the "sun island," Rhodes is the place the Greeks themselves go when they need a break from the everyday.
For more adventurous island hopping, consider Crete, a rugged destination marked by towering mountains, deep gorges, aromatic wildflowers, and breathtaking 360-degree views.
Castello (Crete). A pleasant surprise awaits visitors who happen across this restaurant down a pedestrian path in the town of Rethymno. Authentic Greek and Mediterranean tastes are enhanced by scrumptious sauces and intimate surroundings.
Apostolis Fish Restaurant (Crete). There's so much to sample at this tavern, from freshly caught lobster, calamari, and oysters to lamb chops, steak, and souvlaki (a traditional Greek dish cooked on a skewer).
Run the original marathon (Marathon). According to legend, when the Athenian navy defeated the Persians at the battle of Marathon in 490 BC, the messenger Pheidippides ran 26.2 miles to Athens to deliver the news, shouting victory before collapsing and dying. Now runners compete in the Athens Classic Marathon along the original, historic course each fall. 10K and 5K races also are available.
Grab your mask and flippers (Crete). Whether you're a novice or a seasoned pro, most diving clubs offer boat tours from Crete to Dia island, where the clear waters and rocky seabed provide a wonderful opportunity for snorkeling.
Faliraki Water Park (Rhodes). Get your everything wet at the largest water park in all of Europe. Visitors can enjoy a dizzying array of slides, including the "Spiral Slide of Darkness."
The Acropolis (Athens). Visit these awe-inspiring temples, built by the world's first democracy in 5th century BC. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. Buses between Athens and Marathon typically take about 2.5 hours.
The Samaria Gorge (Crete). Hike the second longest gorge in Europe, descending practically to sea level past centuries old cypress and rare Kri-Kri (Cretan goats) before ending your journey at the "Iron Gates," where the sides of the gorge almost kiss.
Pick up a pair of traditional Cretan boots. The "shoemaker" street of Odos Skridlof in Chania, Crete runs through the center of the old quarter. Once an area for saddle-makers and cobblers, it has now become a popular destination for area tours, offering leather goods of all kinds.
Get lost in the Old Town (Rhodes). Pass through one of the seven medieval gates and enter a world of restaurants, museums, souvenir shops, and no-name streets. Finding a special something to take home is easy to do in the Old Town. (Finding your way back home, however, might be a challenge.)